January 17, 2019
New Protocol Agreement for Collaboration and Communication defines shared intent, provisions, and implementation structure for ensuring success of Squamish Nation students in the North Vancouver School District
Standing in a circle, the sound of the Hu-hup chilh slúlum 'Welcome' song quiets the crowd. The significance of the day flows from the drums and wafts over those in attendance. Tears flow. Stories are told. Laughs are shared.
"I can't help but feel a little emotional," said Kristen Rivers, a Squamish Nation Councillor, as she starts to cry.
Squamish Nation members, North Vancouver School District staff, North Vancouver Board of Education trustees, local politicians, and community members gathered on January 17, 2019 to witness the signing of a milestone agreement between the North Vancouver School District and Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) Nation. The Protocol Agreement for Communication and Collaboration solidifies a partnership between the North Vancouver School District and Squamish Nation. This significant agreement commits to an equal partnership in the education of the 259 Squamish Nation students currently enrolled in the North Vancouver School District, as well as future generations of Squamish Nation children and youth.
Mark Pearmain, Superintendent of the North Vancouver School District, Kristen Rivers, Squamish Nation Councillor, and Christie Sacré, Chair of the North Vancouver Board of Education, sign the Protocol Agreement for Communication and Collaboration.
"The task of investing in Indigenous education is comprised of much more than government funding; it must be forged in substantive and meaningful discussions and decision-making. And that is the intent of this protocol agreement," said Orene Askew, Squamish Nation Councillor and spokesperson. "We are pleased to formalize this relationship with our partners at the North Vancouver School District, and look forward to using this document to guide our work and decision-making moving forward."
The new agreement contains provisions to establish and maintain a substantive and meaningful relationship that is cooperative and collaborative. It will entail Squamish Nation involvement in educational decisions such as the inclusion of Squamish Nation language, culture, and history in the curriculum and courses offered to all students in the North Vancouver School District. It also encompasses many other elements that ensure Squamish Nation partnership in the educational services tailored for Squamish Nation students, including a collaborative process for determining how provincial Targeted Aboriginal Education Funding will be used in the North Vancouver School District.
"I've been working for the North Vancouver School District for 26 years, and this agreement was a dream my mother had even before I was employed here. Over the decades, I have seen the great strides made in Indigenous Education and in supporting our students with Indigenous ancestry. This protocol agreement is a huge leap forward because it places the school district and Squamish Nation as equal partners in educating Squamish Nation children. I am so proud, and emotional, as a Squamish Nation member myself to see us reach this milestone. It is a huge step towards reconciliation," said Brad Baker, District Principal of Indigenous Education and a Squamish Nation member.
The protocol agreement arose out of discussions between the North Vancouver School District and Squamish Nation where it was determined that there was a need to put 'teeth' into the relationship, explained Chris Lewis, Squamish Nation Councillor. The agreement goes above and beyond the status quo, he said.
"This agreement doesn't just paint a picture, it paints a picture with a path," said Paul Wick, Director of Education, Employment and Training, Squamish Nation.
With tears of happiness softly flowing, Rivers' described her public school experience to the crowd gathered to witness the signing of the Protocol Agreement for Communication and Collaboration. She explained that her mother and grandparents attended residential schools, where they were forbidden from practicing their culture and speaking the Skwxwú7mesh language. Rivers', on the other hand, went to school in the North Vancouver School District and even when she attended school more than a decade ago she felt the efforts towards reconciliation. Since she graduated and since the 2015 Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was issued, more concerted efforts towards reconciliation have taken place. The protocol agreement is a huge step towards reconciliation.
"It warms my heart to know that we have people who care so much about our children," said Rivers.
"For the kids coming after me, as I graduate this year, this agreement will help them," said Evan Skye, a grade 12 student at Carson Graham Secondary and a Squamish Nation Member.
The Protocol Agreement for Communication and Collaboration marks a significant moment in the long journey that the North Vancouver School District and Squamish Nation are on together, explained Mark Pearmain, Superintendent, North Vancouver School District.
"This protocol agreement illustrates our commitment of government to government relations," said Pearmain. "It is part of our journey; a journey that is not yet complete. We will continue to work together and to do more to support Squamish Nation students, and all students of Indigenous ancestry."
The North Vancouver School District hopes to have a similar agreement with Tsleil-Waututh Nation.